Friday, November 27, 2009

Big Ticket Items

I know people like to go shopping on Black Friday. I shudder to think who these people are, of course. Stores in my area were touting how they were going to open at midnight or 5 a.m. and I can't think of a single circumstance that would prod me to be anywhere near these establishments ever.

Then, of course, I went and bought a house today.

Go big or go home, I say.

I should say, Emet and I bought a house and, we really haven't bought it yet, escrow and large cashier's checks and all (she's the one with the bulk of the cash; I'm just the guy with the enviable credit score and a certain inalienable charm), but we found out today our offer was accepted.

It's been a huge pain in the ass, this house-hunting. Despite what you read in the papers, the recession is not over and the real estate market is not rebounding and buyers are not snatching up cut-rate deals. The truth of the matter is that inventory is ridiculously low, an artificial tightening of the market thanks you your favorite local bank, which is using every trick at its disposal to keep prices stable. There's a huge shadow inventory of bank-owned homes the finiancial sector is holding onto, for a couple major reasons.

1. If they release all the homes in their stead all at once, prices will plummet due to over-supply.
2. Until they release them (or, more properly, buy them at foreclosure), they can still use the last sale price as the actual price of the home on their balance sheets. Since these paper shenanigans show the asset as worth $300K more than it's actually worth, they don't take a hit on the bottom line or from their shareholders.

The best part of all this is these are the same folks who've gotten billions in bailout money for these toxic assets.

Guess who wins? Not you. Or us.


This was the third offer we'd made. All on standard sales. We shied from short sales because, well, that's just a never-ending waiting game filled with fraud and incompetence. We did look at a couple bank-owned homes, but every one of them was in terrible condition (due to the foreclosure process taking upwards of two years now, allowing lame-duck homeowners to live in a home in which they no longer have a vested interest, a fact which, at best, results in apathy, and, at worst results in wholesale destruction).

So we stuck to the standard sales. The first one on which we made an offer, the realtor got 18 offers. In two days. Thanks to our impressive credit scores (and my charm), our offer made it to the semi-final round before succumbing to a cash offer. Same with the second try. We allegedly finished second in that one, or, as I've taught AJ that calling someone a "loser" is not nice, we'll use his phrase, "Anti-Winner."

Frustrating, sure, but no more than the lack of available properties.


Finally, events conspired for us to get the latest house. It's a standard sale, as well, and the owners have lived there since it was new (15 years ago), so have lots of equity, meaning they didn't have to monkey around with the price to pay off their second and third loans. Secondly, we made our offer during the holiday week, when there was little traffic, and this time of year is typically slow for real estate because people don't want to move during the holiday season. Third, the owners were anxious to just be done with the process. Near as I can tell, ours was the first (fair) offer and they jumped at it.

So, now WE get to move during the holidays, fine on one hand since Emet has the Christmas Break off from teaching; not so fine as we're going to be out of town between Christmas and New Year's. But we will abide.


Emet's home alone tonight as I have a date with the fam at my sister's nephew's high school football playoff game and she can't logistically make it. She was kinda bummed, but I reminded her that this is likely her last ever night without the company of at least one, and often two, loud, smelly boys. So the celebration will have to hold for another day.

It's a curious feeling. Exhilaration and "Holy crap we have a lot of work to do" in at the same time. Maybe that's why people get up at 5 a.m. to go to Target on Black Friday. Me? I'm gonna try to keep the stress under control for the next 30 days and be thankful that the search is over, that AJ's getting a new bedroom (and basketball hoop!) for Christmas and that Emet and I will finally have a place to call our home.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Show

Ohmygod people play so bad.

One guy stacked off with 97o, unimproved, to my AA. Another called a re-raise push with top pair-8 kicker v. my flopped set of deuces.

Those were both at the Final Table.

So, really, I had no choice but to win the seat.

See ya Sunday!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Keep It Positive

With few exceptions, I've never been one to scream at or bait soccer referees. Heck, I was 30 before I got my first red card (defending myself against an opponent actively trying to bash in my skull) and have only had one since (for actively trying to bash in an opponent's skull). I naturally assume all referees are inept and/or crooked.

The exceptions are pretty funny, though, in retrospect. I once got a yellow card as a high school coach for "inciting the sideline," which I did by not uttering a single word, but, rather, kicking at the ground and spinning away from the field after the seventh or eighth strait call that went against my boys. The ref actually stopped play to book me, then gave the opposition--our cross-town rival--a free kick in a dangerous position from which they scored the only goal in a 1-0 loss.

The other that comes to mind is the time a ref disallowed a goal I'd scored (when we were tied and down to 10-men in a Cup Final) for "charging," a curious call since I won the ball in the air and touched nobody, a fact which caused me, for the remainder of the game, to alert the ref that I was going to win the header ("EVERY TIME!") off every goal kick or corner kick, which I did. He eventually tired of my antics and, I swear to you, offered me the choice between a yellow or red card. I chose yellow and we ended up winning anyway.

Yes, it's not as if I'm immune to emotion getting the better of me. However, I have no issue keeping my fire under control while coaching AJ's team. His U-8 team.

Kudos to me for my restraint.

Of course, when referees, even the U-8 style, seem to want to pick a fight with me, well....

I didn't have any ref issues last year. Not even close. I made it four games this year before my first run-in. In a tie game, the other team scored a goal by kicking the ball out of my goalie's hands. I protested, instinctively, saying as such. The ref turned to me and said, "He did not have clear control of the ball!"

What I should have said was, "That's not the rule." Because it isn't. If he has a finger on the ball, it can't be kicked out of his hand and the reason for this is so goalies, such as they are at this age, don't get repeatedly kicked in the head. That's what I should have said. What I did say was, "Of course he didn't have clear control! He's 6!"

Okay, my bad. After the game, I sought out the ref, apologized for my outburst, but then made my point about the safety of the children, to which he heartily agreed and actually said he appreciated me mentioning that because he hadn't thought of it.

Play on.

Perhaps that scene was reported elsewhere, because that can be the only explanation for what happened two weeks later.

This ref was strident from the start. Before he checked the kids' cleats, he gave them stern treatment, using phrases like "I will not tolerate..." and "When I blow the whistle....STOP...IMMEDIATELY." I was partially amused. Chillax, Brah.

The first issue arose when one of my players got hurt in the first quarter. As I helped him off the field, I motioned for a replacement when I was informed by the ref that I couldn't sub "until the end of the quarter."

"That's ridiculous. Yes I can."

"No," he said. "Those are the rules."

(Those are not the rules.)

Being the responsible adult/coach I am, I didn't press it and we played short for a couple minutes while my player recovered.

Then it got stupid.

AJ, as he is prone to do from time to time, wandered about the pitch aimlessly. I yelled to get his head back into the proceedings. What I said was, "AJ! You have to play defense!"

The referee blew his whistle and stopped play. Turning to my sideline, he bellowed, "Coach! Keep it positive!"

I was stunned into open-mouthed silence (Emet, bless her heart, was not, and threw out a sarcastic, "Really?" for which she earned a Death Stare). For one, what I said was hardly negative. For two, I don't think you could find a parent on my sideline who would accuse me of being negative. For three, the referee's place is not to interject himself into coach-player relations (outside of physical mis-treatment, I'll allow).

Still, I managed to swallow the four or five smart-ass remarks that rushed to my brain and returned to the matter at hand.

Then it got stupider.

I had turned my back to the play. It was an opponent's goal kick and I headed up field in anticipation of the re-start. Then I heard one of my parents yell, "Hey! He can't do that!" (What the opposing goalie, a child nearly twice the size of your average 7-year-old, had done was not to kick the goal kick, but to throw it, nearly 3/4 of the field.) As I was turning back to see what had happened, the ref blew his whistle with all his lung power and sprinted over to me, while also reaching in his breast pocket, a sure sign he was going for a card.

Again, I was incredulous.

"Coach! Control your sideline!" he said and the poor parent, as nice a guy as you can imagine is stammering apologies behind me, but also filling me in on the play that I'd missed. I related the issue to the ref, who is now firmly ensconced in my face, my arms spread out wide and my voice diplomatic.

"Do you want me to throw you out?" he said and, honestly, I couldn't hardly take it any more, so I asked if what the opposing player did was legal and since it's not, he might be able to understand why the parent was momentarily, but not harshly, chagrined and holycrap sir, you do realize this is an under-8 game and you are acting in a manner not in proportion with the activity at hand.

I avoided being thrown out AND being shown a card, though he made sure to remind me he was boss, was, in fact, one bad motherfucker in his yellow shirt.

That was really it for confrontation, though my blood, and the collective supply of my sideline, continued to boil. One last thing though, one of my players was hurt in the 4th quarter and as I walked him to the sideline, the ref told me I could bring in a sub for him.

I don't know if this was a conciliatory gesture, or if the opposing coach had informed him at half time that he had erred earlier, or if it was a pity move, since we were down three goals at that point.

Whatever. I sent in a sub.

I've played soccer for 35 years and have never reffed a game. Wouldn't wanna do it. Respect the people who take their time (incompetent and/or crooked though they may be) to do a thankless gig. Game ended. I always go out of my way to thank the refs. And I was going to do so again. Except he scurried away.

I'd like to think this was because he realized he was inappropriate. More likely, he had to hustle to his next assignment. He had another game to ruin.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Emo Dracula

As I've mentioned before in this spot, I am not a big Halloween guy. I've dressed up once in the last 25 years and that was a quick throw-together White Trasher complete with mullet wig and spaghetti stains on the tank top. Emet asked me why--though she, too, is anti-costume--and I came up with two reasons:

1) I have no desire to take the time and brain effort to craft the most awesomest costume ever, a failing that collides nicely with a fear of being laughed at for a half-ass result (or, even worse, a monumental, but ultimately disappointing effort), thereby creating a black hole of meh regarding costuming.

2) Halloween costumes invariably require you to wear something on your head, or do something unnatural with your hair and...well...I have great fucking hair and it's criminal to hide it.

So when we decided to go to a party down in the O.C. on Saturday night, in her sister's neighborhood, one of the best things about the gathering was no costume required. At least for the adults. The kiddies were fired up.

AJ decided on vampire, which is certainly popular these days, but when I quizzed him about which media-saturated famous vampire he wanted to be, he looked at me blankly, a fact which I appreciated because I'd rather puncture my cardioid artery with fake fangs than have him read that crap "Twilight" stuff.

In the weeks leading up to the Big Day, I kept asking him if he needed anything for his costume and he kept saying "No," that he and his Mom had it covered. Er...not so much. He had a cape. That was 8 sizes too big. Awesome.

That's why I was standing in a 50-deep line on Saturday afternoon getting make-up for his face, which annoyed me on the patience (or lack thereof) level and also on the fright level, as I tried to glean which of the various products would be easiest to apply. As I am artistic at a 4-year-old level, I feared screwing up the face painting so horribly that he'd have to go as a caped Al Jolson.

It was just as I'd feared. My hands are clumsy ("your fingers have no brains"), especially so when spreading toxic (oh sure, they SAY the products are safe, but c'mon) materials around your child's eyes and mouth. And with an audience even. Emet has two adorable twin nieces, age 6, who are completely captivated by AJ and they stood in the bathroom door giggling the entire time I applied the makeup. Additionally, this made me nervous since my son is, you might say, a perfectionist and a vampire is supposed to be scary in an undead way, as opposed to a Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest" way.

Mistakes were made (like accidentally putting a dot of black on the end of his nose), and hastily covered up with even more makeup. And, as I reached the final result, I took a deep breath and asked the girls, "He looks scary, right?"

They giggled some more. "He looks silly!"

Uh oh.

But AJ was cool. Though what he ended up with is something I like to call Emo Dracula...

...aka King Diamond (I'm sure there are at least 3 of my readers who recall Mercyful Fate). For the rest of you...

Okay, so makeup crisis averted. Time to party.

The parents took turns leading the pack of kids around the neighborhood while the others enjoyed a nice spread, the World Series and various adult beverages ( a term I used once that evening, to which AJ interjected, "He means beer!"). But it wasn't just beer. Oh no. Apparently, there is a tradition in this 'ville featuring something they alternately referred to as "Apple Jack" and "Apple Crack." It literally tasted like apple pie/cider. Except it had Everclear in it.

Middle-Aged Suburbanites Gone Wild.

Between shots and candy prospecting, AJ and I shot some hoops (see? If I were wearing a costume, I couldn't shoot hoops!), played some pool, watched the Ducks destroy the Trojans and gorged on meatball sandwiches. I was, in the moment, totally pro-Halloween, though perhaps that's because it was unclear who was more jacked up, the kids and their candy or the adults and their cider shots. And while I maintained my usual semblance of Responsible Adult during the proceedings, both AJ and I spent Sunday on the couch, with energy levels just south of zero, periodically raiding his pillowcase full of sugar. I was so lacking in motivation, that I didn't even care how bad my hair looked.

So, thanks for that Halloween and my new friends in The O.C.